The Brief Garden

Andy was a bit happier this morning, the day before when we awoke, i had been awake the previous night until the early hours, suffering from a combination of the famous jet-lag and a buzzy brain, thinking about our trip ahead and googling hotels…I had kept him awake with my incessant tapping on my iPad and so he had woken up shall we say a little bit unhappy with me! Anyway, I had swam a lot when we had returned from our visit to Bewa Junior’s garden and I think that help tire me out bit. The only other problem was that apparently I had snored and that had woken him up – well he can’t have it all can he!

A visit to Mr Bewa Senior’s ‘Brief’ garden was the main objective for the day ahead. We had enjoyed our time at Lunaganga (which I have just remembered means salt river, Luna is salt and Ganga is river), the previous day and felt we should really give Bewa Senior’s garden and house a look in too, after all we had been initiated into the outside world and nothing could stop us now!

Our little, shiny red tuk-tuk arrived with Rowen at the helm, smiling and raring to go…we jumped in and off we went buzzing along at what sounds like quite a high speed, but was actually not very fast at all. This time we turned right towards the water buffalo troll, but he was nowhere to be seen! This time we were heading for the main coast road to take us into Bentota and then on to Ahlugama towards our destination. This was a different experience to the sedentary and laid back country drive that we had experienced the day before. This was full on road mania. The first hurdle was to get out on to the main road from our side road, which was on an incline. Full throttle was required to haul us two heavy weights up and onto the main road before an over filled bus or truck or both ploughed in to us…yikes that was close!

We entered Bentota village, crossed the river and made our way through the madness and mayhem, this is where the Tuk-tuk comes into its own. Whilst the rest of the traffic was sedentary, we were weaving in and out of the buses and trucks, horn a beeping. I can see why the tuk-tuk drivers do this job, it’s like being on a fairground ride and Rowen was clearly enjoying himself. Suddenly we crossed the oncoming traffic and pulled in to the side of the street outside of a herbalist come chemist shop. Rowen had obviously been told to take us here to buy some citronella oil. This is what the locals use as an anti-mosquito repellent and as I and now Andy seemed to have been bitten despite the chemical insecticide we thought it would be worth a try, in for a penny in for a pound as they say.

The shop was split into two, one side selling dried herbs and the like and the other selling, oils, lotions and unguents. We were directed to the side with all of the packaged potions and a smiling man came out of the darkness of the back room to serve us. “Good Morning Madam, what can I do for you today?” He asked in a very polite and friendly fashion. I showed him my bites and asked for the citronella oil, he took a bright, luminous yellow spray bottle from one of the shelves and gave it to me. “Can I get you something else Madam, some Aloe cream? This is very good for the wrinkles.” He said emphasising the word wrinkles, buy beautifully rolling the ‘r’. “No, I’m fine thank you.” I politely replied. He then picked out a brown bottle and handed it to me. “This is very good for the weight loss Madam. And very tasty too!” He said whilst looking me up and down. Once again I told him that just the citronella oil was all I needed today and with that he dismissed me and told me to go over to the other side of the shop to pay. He then went for his next innocent customer, I wonder what he was going to suggest he buy, tonic for thinning hair maybe!

We jumped back into our beloved little tuk-tuk and buzzed off in the direction we had just come, but took a turning which took us into the back streets of Bentota and out into the countryside again. After a few miles we turned onto a track. This really was in the countryside now, the potholed track cut through emerald green paddy fields, surrounded by jungle and palms. The track was so rough that at points we almost came to a stop, Rowen had some serious off-roading to do here and seemed to be enjoying the challenge. I on the other hand was feeling sorry for the little motor again and wanted to get out and walk, it would have been quicker, but I sat and enjoyed the view instead as I know Rowen would not have allowed that.

Up and around a steep corner, another challenge for the little red tuk tuk and ahead of us was a sign that said ‘Brief Garden’. We were here. Rowan, jumped out and just as he had done at Lunaganga, he rang a bell to call the guide. A heavy, black and white painted wooden door opened and an older gentleman, wearing a white shirt and green striped sarong welcomed us. He directed us towards a wrought iron gate and told us to orientate ourselves around the garden by following the path and that he would meet us back at the house for a guided tour.

The Brief Garden is so named not because it only takes a short time to visit it but because the Bewa’s paternal predecessors were lawyers, hence the name Brief. This garden was more secluded and enclosed than Mr Bewa Juniors large and open garden at Lunaganga and was clearly designed for peace, tranquility and contemplation. Once again we had a tropical paradise to ourselves save for a couple of gardeners, who were raking up leaves, which seemed to be a common gardening job that we had also seen in Lunaganga and at the guest house; its a bit like hoovering an outside carpet and seemed to be an important job to do to keep the grass tidy.

One thing that I forgot to mention about Lunaganga, was that at different points around the garden there were bells, each having a different ring, for example if Mr Bewa was relaxing by the Butterfly Pool and fancied a cuppa, he would ring the bell and his servants would hear the ring and know exactly which part of the garden he was in. Here at Brief, there was no need for bells, if the paintings in the house were to believed the Bevis spent a lot of his time lounging around surrounded by an entourage of beautiful young men to pander to his every need! The garden had many private spaces, where one could sit and contemplate whilst enjoying the views and vistas and around every corner there seemed to be a very well endowed male bust, nicely aged with lichens and mosses…

We were enjoying our little haven of tranquility, but as is often the case there was a fly in the ointment. Our fly was a group of loud fellow tourists who had entered the gardens and had broken the spell. We quickly made our way to the white washed, modernist-style villa in the hope that we could have a private tour and sat on the terrace, admiring the antique furniture and artworks, waiting for our man to come and collect us. The gentleman whom had first greeted us when we arrived, came out to meet us and began to give us a history of the house and of Bewa Seniors life. He was a very tall 6ft 7inch aristocratic man, who often entertained very well known people, including our British Royalty. He was self taught landscape gardener and artist, who lived to the ripe old age of 84…All was going well until the noisy ‘group’ arrived and elbowed in on our tour… One of the women in the group had obviously taken on the role of interpreter and undertook to dominate the tour with her continuous barrage of questions which she then translated to the rest of the group. Our polite guide did his best to keep up with her and we ended up taking a back seat, lingering behind to try to enjoy the space in the manner in which it had been designed, with quiet contemplation.

It was clear that this group hadn’t understood the nature of the environment and had seen ‘Brief’ as just another tick on the long list of places to see. Our guide had recognised this and quietly told us to take our time looking around and when we had finished to return to the terrace for some tea. Like Lunaganga, we loved the look and feel of the villa, with its white walls, dark coloured furniture and interesting array of paintings, sculptures and masks that were on display. When all was quiet, we found ourselves a shady spot and were served a pot of Ceylon tea and a plate of Lemon Puff biscuits! Now this was the life!

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